Choosing the right translation company

If you are new to translation, it can be a bit of a daunting process. There is just no way for you to know if your information will be translated correctly. Or is there? You hear of so many translation blunders, yet the biggest mistake an organisation can make in translation is not to translate at all. Translations lead to more business as they tell your clients you have a serious commitment to creating products and services they can relate to. This will put you ahead of your competitors who haven’t bothered to do the same.

You have, of course, searched the internet, asked friends and made phone calls to various companies to find out just how to get through the language maze. You read pages of information on translation companies’ websites claiming that their translation service is the most accurate, the quickest, or the cheapest. But how can you tell that your translation will not only be accurate but you will be getting value for money?

Having spent a number of years working with the language industry I’d like to believe I know what a good translation is. Let me share some tips with you about how to tell a great translation, from a bad translation, and how to tell a great translation company from a so-so one.


If friends or colleagues can recommend one, that’s great. If not, check out some translation companies’ websites, there are many around. Don’t be fooled by glossy websites and stock images of ethnic-looking people.

Is there an About Us section on the website? Does it contains real people’s names and job titles? Is there a list of projects and clients they have worked for? Or is the company a one man show with serviced offices and no way for you to know where in the world your sensitive documents end up?

Signs of a good translation company include great customer service and responsiveness. A good translation company will allocate a dedicated staff member to communicate with you, and will have the skills and resources to work quickly and efficiently. You should ask for and receive a comprehensive written quote, and expect that all the work is done within your budget and deadlines.

A good translation company is keen to provide you with solutions to your language problems, they will hold your hand and provide you with guidance, advice and relevant information. They will ask you lots of questions and take note of your answers. Their written and spoken communication is impeccable. After all, if the staff cannot communication skills are lacking, what hope do you have for your translations to be accurate?

Decisions, decisions  

Like with everything else in this world, you get what you pay for. Don’t let the price be the only factor in selecting a translation company. Whilst it is an important factor – and who isn’t budget conscious today – go with a language services provider who will take as much care of your translations as you did when writing the original text.

Speaking of pricing, translations are normally charged per word so when asking for a quote, your translation services provider will use the word count of your documents to calculate the quote. Worldwide prices range from 0.05 cents per word in China to 45 cents in Australia. Be sure that the quote is all inclusive and extra services such as checking the work by a second translator, desktop publishing, foreign fort support and glossaries have all been included.

When comparing quotes, check that the word count is accurate and deadlines, budgets and  deliverables are clearly outlined. So have a look around, but remember the cost of a mistranslated document will no doubt be much higher than the cost of using a decent translation company to begin with.

Once you have narrowed your search down to companies that have quality assurance procedures in place, then start looking at price.

Quality considerations   

Once you’ve decided on the company you’re going to use, let’s look at the text you need translated. The quality of the translation depends heavily on the original text. Read through and proof read the text you need translated to ensure that it brings your message across accurately. By doing this first it will save you time and money in the future.

Also make sure you can be contacted with any queries regarding the translation. Provide previous translations, glossaries, memories and any specific instructions you want followed.

Proof it!                                                                                                                                         

The better the source text, the better the translation. It’s not the translator’s job to correct errors or improve the readability of the source text. It’s always a good idea to ask a colleague to read it but if you’re ‘it’ and have to proofread the text yourself, here are some simple tips.

The first step is to print it off, find somewhere quiet to do it, take breaks to avoid losing concentration. Often, if you spend too much time with a document you will find it difficult to see the errors. Give it a day or two and go back to it. No doubt you will need to change a few things or rewrite a paragraph or two.

Avoid jargon and use principles of plain English when you write. Bear your target readership in mind, and imagine you are talking to them.

Check it!                                                                                                                                        

1. Even if the only language you speak is English, alarm bells should ring if numbers or names are incorrect, formatting is out of whack or sentences are missing from your translations.

2. If your translation is into English, it shouldn’t read like something written by a non-native speaker. If it reads like a translation, it’s not a good translation.

3. You should always insist on the translation being checked by a second translator: another pair of eyes does make a difference to the accuracy, style and flow of your translation.

Call the companies you are thinking of using and see what they sound like over the phone. This will help you narrow your search further and the principles of good customer service should apply here, too.

It sounds like a lot of work but following the simple tips above will make the translation process cheaper, easier and quicker for both you and the translation company.

Becoming interested and engaged in the process, whilst seemingly time consuming, will teach you about languages, cultures and the newest technology available in the translation industry. Knowing more about translation will put you in control help you get more value out of the translation.